Choeying Khedrub is one of two Tibetan political prisoners serving a life sentence. He is charged with “splittist” activities for distributing pro-independence leaflets within Tibet. Any appeals made to the Chinese court have been rejected, committing him to a lifetime of imprisonment. Choeying’s case demonstrates the severe lack of democracy existing within China today. Tibetans cannot even enjoy the freedom of distributing leaflets on the streets within their own country.
Please make your voice heard and support Choeying Khedrub’s release by signing the electronic petition below that will be sent to the members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, United Nations. We are asking them to report on Choeying Khedrub’s case and to pressure China for his immediate release.
Choeying was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 – this was confirmed by documents obtained from the Tibet Autonomous Region People’s Court in 2006.
Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche is a senior Tibetan Buddhist teacher and a respected social worker. He has been serving a life sentence imposed on him in 1999 on the charge of ‘attempting to split the country’. Before his arrest, he had worked to give unfortunate young children a chance to compete in society by setting up a school and that seemed to be the cause of his imprisonment.
Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche and his wife Nyima Choedron set up a school in Lhasa in mid-1990s which housed and schooled poor and orphans children in and around Lhasa area. At the time of his arrest, the Gyatso had sixty children and increasing. The children were either orphans or from very poor families, thus lacking basic survival support and a prospect in future. When Rinpochi was arrested, Gyatso School was closed and sadly many of its children were forced to beg on the street.
Bangri Rinpoche was linked to an incident in August 1999 when a Tibetan carpenter named Tashi Tsering made an unsuccessful attempt to raise Tibetan flag and thereafter detonate explosives attached to his body. The carpenter was under contract to build a roof in order to expand the school for more children. This led to the arrest of staffs at the Gyatso School and closure of the school.
Tashi Tsering was arrested and according to official Chinese government report, he killed himself in his cell in February 2000. Several staff from the Gyatso school and relatives of Tashi Tsering were also arrested following the incident and have now been released. Bangri Rinpoche’s wife Nyima Choedron was also arrested and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Bangri Rinpoche has reported been weakened since the arrest and he is in very poor state of health.
This case reflects the malice tactic of Chinese authority in targeting Tibetans who are involved in empowering Tibetans and promoting Tibetan cultural heritage, language, and religion.
Update March 2006: Bangri Chogrul’s life sentence was commuted to a fixed term of 19 years, due to be completed in 2021. Nyima Choedron was released early on February 26, 2006.
Ngawang Phulchung (b. 1965), a monk belonging to Drepung Monastery, was detained in 1989 and continues to serve a 19-year sentence at Drapchi prison for organizing a “counter-revolutionary clique”.
This so-called ‘clique’ has been dubbed the “Group of Ten” and includes 10 Drepung monks who joined forces after being released from an initial detention following pro-independence protests in 1987. All 10 members of the group were arrested in 1989. Charged with “undermining national security” the group received sentencings in a forced public gathering (which included 1500 Tibetans) on November 30th, 1989. Additionally, the public sentencing was broadcast on television, assuring wide dissemination of the message voiced by Chinese authorities: “Let the sentence of Ngawang Phulchung serve as a stern warning for separatists, both at home and abroad, that those who split the motherland will come to no good end.”
The Drepung monks’ ‘crimes’ included printing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Labeled the leader of the ‘clique’, Ngawang was charged with “spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda” and for “collecting intelligence and passing it on to the enemy”. For these he was sentenced to 19 years in prison and 5 years deprivation of political rights. Of the original 10 Tibetan monks arrested in 1989, 8 have been released and one, Kelsang Thutop, died in prison in 1996, likely the result of mistreatment and malnutrition. The crimes for which these men continue to suffer are limited to the peaceful exertion of what should be, an inherent right. They engaged in non-violent political activities and for these they have suffered excessive and unjust consequences.
Update November 2007: Ngawang Phulchung was released from Chushul Prison (Ch: Qushui Prison) around 21 October 2007.
The story of Tibet is a tragic story of a peaceful, innocent and a deeply religious nation colonised by its neighbor China in 1949. In the aftermath of the occupation, thousands of Tibetans were killed and imprisoned, monasteries and religious sculptures demolished and stockpiles of sacred scriptures burnt. The tragedy still continues.
But the world is turning a blind eye to the brutalities committed in Tibet by the Chinese. Many powerful western governments had from time to time issued verbal condemnations and passed resolutions in an attempt to censure China’s human rights record in Tibet. But nothing seems to move China; accustomed as it is in turning a deaf ear and outrageously violating international conventions and treaties. Many favour not to take any risks since China is an economic giant: censuring China may affect their business interests.
China prides itself in being an economic and military super power; in fact this very fact emboldens it to commit large-scale human rights violations in Tibet. However, it is high time the Tibetans and the international community took forceful economic action coupled with political action against China. It is China’s economic and business power that enables it to fund various repressive and destructive policies in Tibet and China.
In recent times, the influx of cheap Chinese goods in Indian market has been a course for concern among the Indian policy makers, industralists, and business. The Indian consumers have discovered the deceptive joy of possessing cheap Chinese electric gadgets, crockery and toys. This development will have serious implications on the Indian market and industry. It will further worsen the ever-increasing unexployment rate in these countries.
In an honest endeavour to make a dent in China’s bludgeoning economic might and to raise awareness on human rights violation in Tibet, TWA will launch a mass boycott movement against Chinese goods. We believe that this kind of mass movement will best succeed when started at the grass-root level. The action of each and every consumer matters much in this case. Avoid buying and using any kind of goods with ‘made in China’ tags. The consumer has the right to know where your money goes. Every cheap Chinese goods you buy goes as a contribution to rights violation of Tibetans and millions of Chinese people. Chinese goods come cheap since human life for the Chinese authorities is cheap.
We strongly urge Tibetans, Tibet supporters worldwide, as well as the people of the world, to offer their cooperation in making this movement a success. For Tibetans, the initiative must come naturally and personally. Think about events of 1959 when Chinese committed large-scale genocide in Tibet; the Cultural Revolution of 1969 and the present worsening situation in Tibet and you will know it’s your natural responsibility and duty as a Tibetan to avoid using Chinese goods especially those ubiquitous thermos flasks and tea cups.
In the name of human rights, democracy and global peace, we request you all to promise yourself and take the personal oath that from now onwards you will not use Chinese goods and contribute your money to further rights violations and aggravate sufferings in Tibet and China.
Voices that refused to be silenced: the inspirational story of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation in Beijing 1995
TWA partnered with seven other NGOs concerned with Tibetan women’s issues to take part in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing 1995.
This conglomerate was comprised of:
1. Tibetan Womens Association, India
2. Tibetan Women’s Organisation, Switzerland
3. Tibet Rights Campaign, USA
4. Norwegian Tibet Committee, Norway
5. Canada Tibet Committee, Canada
6. International Campaign for Tibet, USA
7. International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, USA
8. UK Tibet Support Group, Britain.
A neverending journey; Tibetan women’s fight for representation in Beijing
One problem met us before the long struggle for representation in Beijing; should we even participate? We knew that Tibetan women would never be treated fairly and thus the potential of boycotting was discussed by the Tibetan Support Groups (TSGs) and Tibetan Associations (TAs) involved. We decided that to boycott would only please the Chinese government and also would fail our duty as free Tibetan voices to tell the world what is happening to our Tibetan sisters.
Following the decision to take part, under TWA Central’s committed leadership the NGOs involved spent over two years in preparation, attending Preparatory Conferences held around the world. Whilst uncertain as to whether we’d be able to participate, we gathered for strategy meetings and finalised a group of 80 planned attendees.
The event was comprised of two parts; the NGO Forum held from August 31 – September 8, and the official UN conference held from September 5 – 15. All of our eyes were fixed on gaining attendance at the official UN conference, with TSGs and TAs having already been present in past NGO Forums. The NGO Forum attendance was confirmed without problems, although this meeting was then moved to Huairou, an hour’s drive from Beijing, in a transparent but unsuccessful attempt to stop it drawing any attention.
The Forum organizers also assured us that those registered would not have problems gaining a visa. However, at a meeting in Canada a representative from the All China WomenUs Federation refused to guarantee visas to Tibetan women even if they are citizens of other countries. Following this, at a local Chinese consulate, response to an inquiry about Tibetan women getting visas indicated that they would be granted. However, they never were.
As for the battle for representation at the important official UN conference, this held many struggles, with our eight groups being part of a total 200-300 NGOs excluded from the conference – initially without official reasons. Eventually the baffling reason for our exclusion was given as; “the objective and purpose of the organisation was either not clearly relevant to the conference or outside the scope of the conference”!
We then focused all of our efforts and those of our supporters upon lobbying member states of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).We had a clear argument, with our exclusion adding us to a long list of other NGOs excluded in ways that similarly denied human rights and discriminated; namely, gay & lesbian groups, Catholics for Free Choice, Taiwanese and Tibetan groups.
All Tibetan groups appealed the decision and the applications were reviewed at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in Geneva, June 1995. However the decision for exclusion was only confirmed for all eight groups, despite the fact that three groups had been recommended by the U.N. Conference Secretariat. Six organizations from Taiwan were also excluded.
Finally, none of us were officially granted permission to participate or able to obtain visas. However our voices would not be stifled so unfairly; nine exiled Tibetan women of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation participated in both the Conference and Forum nonetheless, including TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong.
A monumental event for Tibetan women and our defiant message sent across the world; what took place in Beijing
The demonstration staged by the nine Tibetan women in Beijing and the continuous harrassment from the Chinese authorities (as well as from Tibetan women from the official ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ delegation) resulted in unseen levels of media attention and our message being sent out not only to Tibetans in exile in India and Nepal, but non-Tibetans around the world.
Our nine brave representatives were: Tsering Tsomo, Yoden Thonden, Chimi Thonden, Dorji Dolma, Tenki Tendufla, Phuntsok Meston, Tsering Dolma Gyalthong, Kesang Wangmo and Tenzin Jimpa. These nine women were from a total of fifty Tibetans in exile who attempted to gain visas by hiding their affiliations; they went to Beijing along with a dozen supporters, the small but resolute delegation arriving on August 26, 1995.
On day one of the NGO’s Forum the delegation presented a film on Tibetan women refugees, during which a Chinese man took the video from the player and attempted to run away with it! At the time, Chinese propaganda press stated that this “was an attempt to split China, and was deemed unacceptable to the police officers on duty and an infringement on China’s sovereignty.”
On day two the delegation staged a striking event that would symbolize the treatment of Tibetan women by the Chinese regime, as well as garner deserved media attention: they marched single file to the Forum’s center in heavy rain, with their mouths gagged with silk Chinese scarves – those that had been distributed at the opening ceremony. A crowd gathered quickly, captivated by this candid demonstration, and spontaneously began to sing freedom songs such as “we shall overcome” (from the American Civil Rights movement anthem). Photographs of these courageously gagged, silent and still Tibetan women with tears freely falling down their faces were broadcast to the world – a vivid and emotive symbol of China’s unjust silencing of Tibetan women’s voices.
The Tibetan delegation continued to communicate its message throughout the conference, taking this opportunity to educate others about the many human rights violations against Tibetan women. This included setting up an unauthorized booth with banners such as ‘Tibetan Women in Exile’ and ‘STOP the KILLINGS”. The women continued their efforts despite constant surveillance and harassment from the Chinese authorities, even including physical assaults.
Despite the considerable difficulties, all involved agreed the seemingly neverending efforts had been comprehensively worth it; with hitherto unseen media coverage of Tibetan women’s issues spreading its way around the world, including many headline news stories.
The courage of our sisters in undertaking this unprecedented direct action cannot be overstated; they managed to speak out whilst not knowing what punishment and harm they may come to by the Chinese authorities.
Their impertinence in challenging the Chinese on their own land presents a truly inspirational and touching moment for us all.
In addition to the Tibetan Delegation and countless unyielding support we received, we were urged on in our fight by official messages of support from the Dalai Lama, as well as the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and the Kashag.
Following Beijing, TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong went to Washington DC for a public talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, where she prostrated to His Holiness onstage and was greeted by a standing ovation in the crowd. She was then presented with a long kata (the distinct white ceremonial Tibetan scarf) in recognition of the Tibetan women’s work prior to and during the conference.
This event was profoundly moving for all involved, with Tsering Dolma Gyalthong sharing the stage with His Holiness as the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded her, aware not only of the many troubles the Tibetan women had endured to send their message out to the world, but also now aware of Tibetan women’s many struggles against Chinese treatment – thanks to the bold and inspiring actions of Tsering Dolma Gyalthong and the Tibetan Women’s Delegation